Monday, 12 September 2022
This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. Acts 10:16
The previous verse brought to Peter’s ears the voice from heaven, saying, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was in response to Peter’s balking at the voice concerning his dietary scruples. With that remembered, it now says, “This was done three times.”
The Greek includes a conjunction to begin the verse – “And this was done three times.” What was done is not specified, whether it was the presentation of the object like a sheet with all the animals, whether it was the command and Peter’s balking at it which was then followed by the Lord’s note of cleansing, or whether the entire process took place three times. The latter is probably the case, however.
If the entire process, including Peter’s balking at the Lord’s word, is what is referred to, the event is remarkably similar to Moses’ three protestations before the Lord in Exodus 3 and 4 –
The Lord’s directive: “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).
- “Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’” (Exodus 4:1).
- “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue’” (Exodus 4:10).
- But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” (Exodus 4:13).
Moses was called to lead the people of Israel into the dispensation and observance of the law which included isolation from the Gentile world. Peter is being told he is to lead them out of the law observance and into fellowship with the Gentile world.
The three-fold repetition of the event is to ensure that Peter is fully aware that this has been decided and that it is the course that must be taken. The number three in Scripture “points us to what is real, essential, perfect, substantial, complete, and Divine” (Bullinger). This is a fitting description in all ways concerning what is now to occur. Peter is being pointed to God’s real, essential, perfect, substantial, complete, and Divine revelation concerning the grace of God in Christ. With this settled, it next says, “And the object was taken up into heaven again.”
The lesson has been taught, the message has been conveyed, and it has been given to Peter first to confirm a particular pattern that will be revealed before the chapter is complete. It is not to convey one gospel to the Jews and one to the Gentiles. Rather, it is to establish the matter that there is one gospel to both. Peter is the key to this particular revelation.
The Lord personally spoke to Peter in John 21, three times prompting him to tend to His sheep –
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” John 21:15-19
Now in Acts 10, Peter is beginning to find out that the sheep Jesus was referring to includes the Gentiles.
Life application: The matter of calling the supposedly unclean Gentiles to faith in the Lord is not merely speaking of the people. It is also referring to the ending of the dietary restrictions within the Law of Moses. How can we know this is absolutely the case? It is because anyone who had eaten something unclean under the law was considered defiled for a particular amount of time as defined by the law. But what will transpire in the coming verses will reveal that these “unclean Gentiles” are accepted by God without reference to the required timeframe set by the law.
As this is so, and the point will be explained again as Acts 10 continues, it demonstrates that the law was only a tutor for the people of Israel to understand their need for Jesus. Remember this as you interact with those who claim what is happening in Acts 10 only speaks of accepting the Gentiles, but it does not change adhering to the dietary laws set forth within the Law of Moses. In Christ’s New Covenant, there are no dietary restrictions. Nothing is unclean to those who understand the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. As Paul says of such things –
“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Titus 1:15, 16
This is the lesson Peter is now learning. Don’t be like the Judaizers of the world! Understand that in Christ, the flesh counts for nothing. This is a temporary body that exists within a temporary system. God is not concerned about what goes into your stomach. He is watching our actions and reading our hearts as we live out our lives before Him.
Glorious God Almighty, You have set us free from the constraints of law so that we can worship You in Spirit and in truth. Help us to live out this freedom in holiness and in obedience to Your precious word. May we not fall back on a law that could save no one, but rather, help us to live for You according to the New Covenant set forth through the finished work of Jesus. Amen.